Pronghorn pride shows in classroom
When members of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns athletic program are referred to as student-athletes, the emphasis is almost always on the athlete. Each academic year, however, a talented group of individuals is able to bring focus to the student part of the moniker and they are recognized as Canadian Interuniversity Sport Academic All-Canadians.
“We see this as a really special accomplishment,” Sandy Slavin, Executive Director, Sport and Recreation Services, says. “We see how much time they put into their athletics, and I don’t know if people appreciate that commitment. When you consider that and then factor in an 80 per cent average on their academics, it really is a special achievement.”
A total of 36 Pronghorn athletes made the grade for the 2007-08 academic year,
roughly 20 per cent of the entire athletic roster. For some it was a first appearance on the list, while others, like swimmer Shannon Emerson, 2007-08 marked the culmination of five successive Academic All-Canadian seasons.
“I’m very proud to say that I was able to balance both, able to go to university, get great grades and still be successful in my swimming,” Emerson (BFA/BEd), a Lethbridge native who graduated in May, says.
“There is a lot to balance and it was hard to get used to at first. Looking back, I really think that being both an athlete and a student helped build great organizational and management skills, and that’s something I carried on throughout my studies and now into my career.”
Applying the discipline associated with being an athlete to studies is a consistent theme with many of the Pronghorns.
“Honestly, I find that when we’re in our heavy season it’s easier to find time to do all my studies because I have a structured framework for it,” Pronghorns rugby player and management student Amanda Richardson says. “Now that the season is done I tend to procrastinate a little bit because I have that extra time, and in the end I’m more rushed.”
Richardson, who hails from Olds, Alta., is proof that athletes can excel in both arenas. A member of the two-time CIS championship Pronghorns rugby squad, she has now earned her second Academic All-Canadian honour to go along with a Canada West all-star nod and CIS Tournament all-star recognition.
While the studentathletes do the heavy lifting to achieve their All-Canadian status, a framework of support that includes teammates, coaches and professors all helps the cause.
“The profs here at the University of Lethbridge are really supportive,” Pronghorns women’s hockey goaltender and management student Mackenzie Rizos says. “They find out you’re a student-athlete and they try and make any accommodations for you that they can. Whether you are missing classes or tests, they’ve all been very helpful.”
It’s also a pride thing amongst many of the teams. Rizos and her hockey teammates tied the women’s soccer team for having the most All-Canadians on campus, with six apiece.
“Our team made it our goal to have a higher (combined) GPA this year,” she says. “We have study hall and awards for people who do improve and I think it’s great our team recognizes those who do accomplish that goal.”
She’s quick to put into perspective what being a student-athlete means.
“It’s important to realize you are here to get a degree,” Rizos, a Calgary native, says.
“The reality is that being a women’s hockey player, you can’t really make a career out of it, so it’s nice to be able to play hockey and have it contribute to your academic experience and I’m lucky to be able to do that.”